Taking the sufferfest approach from Cycling to Running: Does it work?

Hi Sufferfest

I posted the below on the facebook chat, and thought it would be interesting to see whether any coaches (or Neil!) had a view on this- thanks all!

"I’ve been a runner /cyclist for the last 15 years - growing up in the ‘LSD’ era, where low intensity and volume were viewed as king. This last year on sufferfest has seen bigger gains in my cycling than any other year based on my Watts (hurrah!). My running training is still based on methods where easy running (at Aerobic capacity) is still a large chunk of the weekly plan time. I wonder whether a switch in running to the sufferfest method would see equally large gains as I’ve seen in cycling- or does the nature of running (higher stress vs cycling) mean that the sufferfest cycling approach isn’t correct (this is for sub 6-7hr training weeks). I remember reading an article from Neil that stated that sub 7hrs a week you dont produce enough stress for LSD to be relevant. Interested in your thoughts!


Hi Johnny,

Several years back I switched any intervals to the indoor bike exclusively and kept my running to LSD. My running club talked about the importance of time-on-feet to be comfortable with longer distances and avoid injury if distance running was your goal. What I think I lost was running speed improvements and so was trying to fix this with one tempo run a week.

I’m not running right now, about to add this back in, so your question is really timely for me too.


Thanks for the reply! Yeah- it’s a tough one to balance and i think my running times have benefited actually over the last year from increased intensity in sufferfest (perhaps due to years of base work!), and so wonder would running in the same manner as my cycling would have another boost…

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Hey Johnny,

Love your idea… here’s why, I needed this site. I only joined on 9/26 and I’m down 8 lbs already.
I’ve been lost since March and all the races got cancelled; and gyms and pools were closed.
I think a running version could happen, if Wahoo and Stryd form some kind of partnership.
So Stryd makes a “running w/Watts” foot pod.
They encourage a test that’s similar to the 4DP to discover the runner’s “critical power.”

Test Protocols

  • 15 to 20min warm up with various strides and dynamic drills (we recommend doing 2x30sec @ 3k intensity + 4x15sec @ mile intensity all with 60sec recovery, and dynamic drills of your choosing to prepare for a race effort)

9/3minute test

  • 9min time trial
  • 30min active recovery (light jogging or walking)
  • 3min time trial
  • 10 to 15min cooldown of light jogging

6/3 lap test

  • 2 laps at a medium effort (record duration)
  • 5min easy jog
  • 6 Lap Time Trial (record duration)
  • 30min active recovery (light jogging or walking)
  • 3 lap Time Trial (record Duration)
  • 10 to 15min cooldown of light jogging


Running off the bike is very different than just going for a run. If you are to enter a 5k or 10k time be sure it is a time from a sprint or an Olympic triathlon. If you would like to perform one of the other two options, we recommend you do an hour ride before performing the test.

Sounds a lot like the Full Frontal doesn’t it?

Or the pod will determine your Critical Power based on data collected over time (they encourage a variety of runs) from the Stryd site:

How do I make sure my Critical Power is accurate?

The more variety you have in your running, the more accurate your Critical Power will be. We recommend the following:

  1. Long runs over an hour in duration.
  2. Medium duration runs of 10-20 minutes at max effort or near max effort (time trial or race)
  3. A short max effort run that is 3-5 minutes in duration.
  4. Short distance sprints or strides at max effort (10-30 seconds in duration).

Stryd will use approximately 90 days worth of runs to determine your Critical Power. The runs that contribute to your Critical Power can be viewed in the Power Duration Curve.

I believe, LSD is still very relevant, but the future is the past in my opinion. Arthur Lydiard emphasized LSD but he also touted the importance of speed work, hill repeats, and the like… same w/Jack Daniels but many overlook that aspect.

Between Steve Palladino writings (power based coach) and Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 work, what I see is a nice distillation of that LSD (80% Z1-Z2) and specific workouts to activate and improve the anaerobic, and LT systems…

So back to the question at hand: Right now the site has 3 running videos for treadmill work. + 1 for triathletes who need brick work.

All supply ur own treadmill … or use one at the gym, right?
I know Peleton has crossed into the treadmill market, (cost $2,495) but I’m not aware how the Peleton treadmill’s are setup, but if it’s like the bike, it’s likely more for the communal group experience of one size fits all calorie burns, versus targeted progressions towards specific racing goals (which is why I just dropped Peleton app for The Sufferfest.) I certainly doubt the Peleton workout controls the treadmill, speed, watts, etc.

Should Wahoo develop a treadmill, one that controls speed/incline, based on the workout goals, and the runner’s fitness? Is there really a market? If Wahoo says yes, and decides to extend the Sufferfest brand to running beyond the 3 current videos, it could be cool.

But if they take that leap, they have 2 options: Full Treadmill version, or just an app.
If they go treadmill, I would encourage them to develop something that utilizes Stryd’s Power based technology (and develops training plans that control pace and incline of the individual workout based on the individual’s CP (critical power) via a running test, I can see solid results happening for athletes.

But, again costs of those “extras” might make it a high barrier to entry to be a worthy ROI to pursue. And is there more liability for lawsuits with the potential treadmill injuries? Who knows what corporate hurdles there could be.

A potentially less expensive option: Partner w/Stryd so Stryd users can have their Stryd data import to the Sufferfest and also export to their watches Sufferfest Running Workouts based on power.

The recent update to the Styrd App, that includes training plans, is a Stryd-centric massive step in that direction. They are letting users preview it for FREE until mid-2021. And once hooked the monthly subscription will kick in, not sure of cost but my gut says 99/annual or 12.99/mo.

Meshing the Stryd app’s new workouts (which are geared for outdoors of course) with the Sufferfest narratives seems to be a less costly, proposition. Again all comes back to ROI.

Either way I think there’s something there.
But to your original query:

I wonder whether a switch in running to the sufferfest method would see equally large gains as I’ve seen in cycling- or does the nature of running (higher stress vs cycling) mean that the sufferfest cycling approach isn’t correct (this is for sub 6-7hr training weeks).

Until SUF offers more comprehensive running workouts, I would continue with LSD on most days, and alternate one day of track work at race pace, or above (if race is 5K) and the following week hill repeats. If your need ideas for tracks days mcmillanrunning.com is a great resource even if you don’t sign up.

All The Best!



Thanks Brian- thats alot of info i need to digest, but love it!! Will come back with a fuller reply in due course.


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Take your time. Yeah, that was a lot.
But your question made me really think!




Hey @Johnny_Ferguson,
First, welcome and I’m so happy to hear about your cycling success over the past year using SUF!

I think you ask a very important question here, and it’s hard not to say “It depends” on certain factors, but I think the over-arching answer is generally yes, and there are a few main points that I’d like to make in support of this.

First, it’s true that running is much more stressful on the body than cycling, so it’s important to work into running slowly and progressively if you’re new to it, or if you’ve taken some time off.
Starting with LSD is a good way to begin the body’s adaptation to the eccentric muscular contractions as well as the landing and compression forces that are stressful but important for muscle, bone, tendon and ligament strength and integrity. Keep in mind, however, that LSD (long slow distance) doesn’t mean a high volume of running. Keep the mileage low but the frequency relatively high (4-5 days/week) and add distance very slowly and gradually. I think it’s also important to incorporate strides and drills in order to activate the neuromuscular system and engrain good running patterns/mechanics right from the start. For instructional info on strides and drills, check out our article in the help center. After a couple weeks, when you’re no longer experiencing any soreness from running, I’d say it’s safe to begin introducing some “quality” running sessions, or sessions with higher intensity efforts.

At this point, if you haven’t read Sir Neal’s blog post on the importance of high intensity cycling for triathlon, I recommend you read that as well. He makes many good points that are also true for running.

1- Specificity- If you want to race fast, you must train fast. You can’t expect to run a speedy 5k if you only run long slow distance. But you also can’t run a marathon fast if you only run long slow distance. But incorporating higher intensity/faster running into your program will make you faster at any distance, without question, no matter the method, i.e. RPE, pace, power, etc.

2- Just like specific neuromuscular (NM) training like cadence builds on the bike are important for teaching your body how to recruit fast twitch muscle fibers to accelerate and get up to speed, the same is true for running. You must train your body to recruit those fast twitch muscle fibers if you want to run fast. You’ll also need to train your anaerobic capacity (AC) so you can process lactate efficiently.

3- Remember that your FTP is largely determined/limited by your MAP. So if you want to be able to run faster for longer durations, you need to do shorter efforts to increase your MAP- think 2-4 minute intervals. You can also include hill training in this category. Running uphill is extremely beneficial as a form of strength training, which can also contribute to making you a faster runner.

4- Quality over quantity. Generally speaking, most people will stay healthy and perform better with this approach, especially as we age and our bodies break down faster. We can minimize the damage and keep our bodies more balanced by keeping our volume low-moderate and intensity moderate-high because that also allows us to incorporate more strength training, mobility, stability, stretching and other recovery modalities that we might not have time for if we train a high volume of running, cycling, swimming, etc.
This also allows for more variation in your training, which can help you prevent boredom, burnout and overtraining.

In our collective coaching experience, we find that most athletes are able to do more quality training, recover better, feel better overall, perform better and stay healthy longer with this approach. However, balance is always important, so aerobic and recovery runs still have their place, and too much quality training and not enough recovery will land you in a position of over-reaching/overtraining (or under-recovering). So you still need to be smart about overall balance of volume and intensity in your program, and of course recovering well!


Wow- thanks for the response Suzie- super detailed :slight_smile:

Based off your response it feels as though the nuances in running are far more than what apply to cycling - e.g. injury considerations and physiology, and running history. But generally the Sufferfest approach to cycling can (and does) work.

I think there is an element, for me certainly, that has resulted in my years of ‘slower running’ that i’m more injury proof and, hence, can add more higher intensity (which may not apply to a ‘newer’ runner). I suppose it’s similar to not trying to train like a pro when you only have 6hrs a week as your lifestyle, time, recovery and background are very different.

The biggest thing for me doing sufferfest vs what i never did before was stregth training- despite always knowing about needing to do it! I think it’s having it in a plan that forces you to commit and then realise the benefits.

My experiment for this next year is to step far more into running suffering (and smashing my MAP!); so thank you for all your and this forums advice! I’ve just moved house and have a great hill nearby that is going to be my friend over the decades to come :slight_smile:


Awesome, @Johnny_Ferguson! I think you’re exactly right.
Happy Suffering! :grin:

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I’m late to the this conversation, but here’s a thought.

I’d love some no-vid, audio-coaching running workouts that I could listen to while doing intervals at my local track. These could be based on times, not distances. Example: “Ok, next five minutes will be at RPE 3. Good. Now, here come three one-minute sets at RPE 7. Now, here’s 220-yd sprint. Suffer! Suffer! Suffer!”


Really interesting discussion here. I run 5 days per week (M-F) and Suff 5 days per week (M-F), but know that I can’t get the intensity in both while on training plans. I have done Speed Demon / FTP Builder / Training Blocks - MAP / KoS Training Plan all while running. The one thing that I have recognised is that it isn’t possible to do both run training (hard) and hard Suff sessions on same day. One is going to impact the other.
If you think about it, the Suff sessions are all basically interval sessions / tempo sessions / hill sessions just in a different language depending on your speed etc. Intervals = track sessions 2-4min of 200m to 1k, tempo sessions = threshold 5k time trial, hill sessions = GOAT / Power station slower cadence strength building. Ok, I know that isn’t an exact cross over, but i do look at how the duration could impact the specificity of the training.
Sorry if I haven’t answered a question (probably just some random musings from myself) but in summary “yes, i believe you could form a run plan based on Suff sessions” but you would need to know what event you are training for…